Brief Summary


Nymphalini contains about 100 species, many of which are well-known by everybody, such as the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and the Tortoiseshells (Aglais). Species in temperate regions tend to hibernate as adults, and are thus among the first butterflies to be seen in Spring. The group has been the subject of intensive ecological and evolutionary studies, especially the genus Polygonia. Species of Nymphalini are found through out the world, even on remote oceanic islands such as Hawai'i.


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Evolution and Systematics


Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Nymphalini Tree

The consensus tree above shows all the stable and robust clades in Nymphalini from Wahlberg et al. (2005).

The phylogenetic relationships of Nymphalini have been studied intensively since 2000, although the emphasis has been on the Nymphalis-group (including Nymphalis, Kaniska, Polygonia and Aglais). The most comprehensive study so far has been done by Wahlberg et al. (2005), who included 46 species from almost all genera (the putative Nymphalini Pycina was not included). Wahlberg et al. (2005) showed that the genera Colobura, Tigridia and Smyrna should be included in the tribe Nymphalini (they were previously placed in Coeini). Colobura and Tigridia are clearly sister genera and together they are sister to the rest of Nymphalini. The position of Smyrna is not clear at the moment, it may be sister to the rest of Nymphalini (to the exclusion of Colobura and Tirgridia; Wahlberg et al. 2005) or it may be sister to Colobura , Tigridia (Wahlberg 2006). The remaining genera form a strongly supported monophyletic group based on the DNA sequences of three genes (Wahlberg et al. 2005). Within this group, Symbrenthia, Mynes and Araschnia form a monophyletic group, but the relationships of these three genera are not clear at the moment (Fric et al. 2004, Wahlberg et al. 2005), with Fric et al. (2004) suggesting that Mynes is within Symbrenthia, while Wahlberg et al. (2005) place Mynes as sister to Araschnia. The lack of resolution is possibly due to the quick divergence of the ancestor into three lineages (Wahlberg 2006).

The positions of Antanartia, Vanessa and Hypanartia are also not clear, with Wahlberg et al. (2005) placing Antanartia as sister to the other genera, and Hypanartia and Vanessa as sister to each other. Traditionally, Antanartia and Hypanartia have been considered to be sister genera, and indeed further unpublished molecular data is indicating that this may be the case (N. Wahlberg, unpublished).

The relationships of the Nymphalis-group genera have been the focus of several studies (Nylin et al. 2001, Wahlberg and Nylin 2003, Weingartner et al. 2006). It is clear that the genus Aglais is sister to the other genera, with strong support from both molecules and morphology. The position of Kaniska is not clear, with molecules placing it as sister to Nymphalis with weak support and morphology placing it as sister to Polygonia, also with weak support. Kaniska was synonymized with Polygonia by Wahlberg and Nylin (2003), however, the unclear position of Kaniska suggests that it should be retained as a genus of its own, despite having just a single species in it.


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Nymphalini is a tribe of nymphalid brush-footed butterflies. Common names include admirals, anglewings, commas, and tortoiseshells, but neither of these is specific to one particular genus.

This monophyletic group of nymphaline butterflies inhabiting northern hemisphere are characterized by a jagged outline of their wings and the ability to survive the winter months as adults in an obligatory hibernal diapause, hiding in various shelters (e.g., crevices, hollows, cavities, even unheated buildings). The signature mark of all butterflies is the cryptic colour and maculation of the ventral (under) side of their wings, serving to conceal the hibernating butterfly against the substrate on which it rests.


Listed alphabetically.[1][2]

The monotypic genus Tigridia is sometimes placed here as a very basal offshoot close to Colobura, sometimes in the related tribe Coeini.

Prehistoric genera only known from fossils are:


  1. ^ a b Nymphalini, Tree of Life
  2. ^ Nymphalinae, funet.fi
  • Korshunov, 1995. [Butterflies of the Asian part of Russia. A handbook] Dnevnye babochki Aziatskoi chasti Rossii. Spravochnik.:202 pp. (re: Roddia)
  • Kudrna, O. & J. Belicek, 2005. The Wiener Verzeichnis, its authorship, publication date and some names proposed for butterflies therein. Oedippus 23: 1-32. (re: Schiffermüller names)
  • Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Clases, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Symonymis, Locis. Tomis I. 10th Edition Syst. Nat. (Edn 10). (re: N. antiopa, P. c-album, P. c-aureum, I. io, N. polychloros, A. urticae)
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